Responding to Russia
No Quiet on the Eastern Front

Tensions with the West are approaching a fever pitch ahead of Russia’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of its victory in World War II on Saturday. A rehearsal in Red Square on Monday featured the debut of Russia’s new Armata T–14 third-generation main battle tank—the world’s first completely new tank design in over 35 years as The Diplomat explains in an excellent rundown—as well as some new armored personnel carriers, S–400 air defense systems, and the Yars, Russia’s new ICBM. It’s all part of Russia’s ambitious modernization plan that’s set to replace 70 percent of its aging weapons by 2020. The Financial Times has more:

On Monday night, many local residents lined up along the capital’s streets had their attention focused on the massive trucks carrying the nuclear missiles. “This will be on CNN, and they will remember in America that we are a nuclear power after all,” said Andrei, a Muscovite who was filming the vehicles with his smartphone as they rolled towards Red Square.

But military experts said the most striking message of the parade was the large amount of new equipment entering the ground forces. “The ground forces are the part of the military that are starting to really feel the difference from the modernisation programme,” said a foreign defence official in Moscow who watched the rehearsal.

The rollout will have special resonance in Eastern Ukraine, where the threat of Russian heavy armor is a day-to-day worry as fighting picks up once again. Given the marked increase in violence, it’s easy to imagine that the West still has a large standing force of tanks ready to thwart a Russian offensive. Easy, but also wrong, as Jamestown pointed out last month:

[…] as of April 8, the combined rebel forces in Donbas (eastern Ukrainian region encompassing Donetsk and Luhansk provinces) possess approximately 700 tanks, 600 artillery systems and more than 300 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). If true, on a comparison of the tank holdings alone, the Donbas rebels have more tanks than France, Germany and the Czech Republic combined.

With Europe slowly waking up to the fact that the world has not yet entered its postmodern phase, perhaps it’s time for the United States to step up its game, and do again what it did in Reagan era: demonstrate the utter futility of an arms race to Russia.

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